DVD Releases – week of March 22 2020

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“1917”: Director and co-writer Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Skyfall”) earned wide acclaim and many award nominations for this World War I drama, based largely on his own grandfather’s memories of the battle. It traces the efforts of two young British soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who literally risk their lives to deliver an important message calling off a planned attack on German forces … an event that would place the brother of one of the soldiers in jeopardy, though the messengers face a bounty of peril themselves. Of the film’s 10 recent Oscar bids, it won the honors for cinematography (a superb job by returning Mendes collaborator Roger Deakins, who accomplishes much of the picture with continuous long takes), visual effects and sound mixing. Among familiar actors backing the central stars are Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott (“Fleabag”), Mark Strong and Richard Madden. **** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD)

“THE GRUDGE”: After two earlier versions — the original Japanese film and an American remake — this horror tale gets another workout, this time from writer-director Nicolas Pesce. The basics remain the same as several stories collide, with detectives (Andrea Riseborough, Demian Bichir, William Sadler) investigating a family murder-suicide case that may have supernatural undercurrents. No major character here goes unaffected by ghosts, adding to the levels of eeriness and surprise as unpredictable events continue to unfold at a house where tragedy has occurred. John Cho, Betty Gilpin (“GLOW’), Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Frankie Faison and genre veteran Lin Shaye also are in the cast of the expectedly unsettling project. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“TREADSTONE: SEASON ONE”: The “Bourne” espionage series lives on — without Jason Bourne — in this USA Network series that advances elements of the Robert Ludlum novels and the movies made from them. The show involves some producers of the “Bourne” movies, who maintain the premise’s international scope, and focuses on other operatives of the highly secretive CIA initiative in Bourne’s background. Jeremy Irvine (“War Horse”) and Brian J. Smith (“Sense8”) are among the stars of the saga of sleeper agents awakened around the world to tackle the missions they were programmed for. Developed by Tim Kring, the creator of “Heroes” and “Crossing Jordan,” the adventure-drama also features Omar Metwally (“The Affair”) as a CIA veteran whose troubled past makes him an ideal point person for the so-called Operation Treadstone, Tracy Ifeachor (“Quantico”) as a reporter who restarts her career by pursuing the Treadstone story, and Michelle Forbes (“Homicide: Life on the Street”) and Michael Gaston (“The Man in the High Castle”) as other CIA officials. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V)

“FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY”: One of the very best retellings of author Mary Shelley’s horror classic about a doctor obsessed with creating a synthetic man from others’ body parts, this made-for-NBC 1973 miniseries debuts on Blu-ray and boasts excellent performances by Leonard Whiting (“Romeo and Juliet”) as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Michael Sarrazin as his creation. With a hugely literate script by novelist Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, the production also gave audiences another look at Jane Seymour shortly following her international splash as a “Bond girl” in “Live and Let Die.” James Mason, Agnes Moorehead. David McCallum, Nicola Pagett, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton and Michael Wilding also add acting heft to the British-American co-production. Special features include interviews with Seymour and Whiting. *** (Not rated: AS, V)

“CUNNINGHAM”: One of the icons of the dance world is profiled in this documentary, recalling the rise of Merce Cunningham as one of the most innovative choreographers in his field. Starting out as a dancer himself in New York in the years after World War II, he had ideas and incentives to strike out as someone who put together his own steps that others followed — and quite successfully and enduringly, earning him such accolades as the Kennedy Center Honors and a National Medal of Arts. By the time of his death at age 90, Cunningham had devised more than 200 pieces (many of which expectedly are excerpted here) for the dance company that bore his name. This film originally was shown in 3-D in theaters. DVD extra: “making-of” documentary. *** (PG: AS)

“THE SONG OF NAMES”: Tim Roth and Clive Owen make an expectedly powerful acting match in this drama built heavily on music. They play brothers-by-adoption who share a close relationship during their World War II-era boyhood, suddenly severed when they become young adults and the adopted sibling (Owen) — who’s a remarkable violin prodigy — vanishes. Many years later, the other brother hears a familiar-sounding musician who could provide clues to the long-missing man’s whereabouts. Veteran composer Howard Shore (“The Lord of the Rings”) devised the score, obviously a pivotal element of director Francois Girard’s film. Catherine McCormack (“Braveheart”), Saul Rubinek and Eddie Izzard also appear. DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries. *** (PG-13: AS, P)

FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):


“THE CURRENT WAR” (March 31)


“CATS” (April 7)

“DOLITTLE” (April 7)

“LITTLE WOMEN” (April 7)

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

jbobbin has 2280 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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